Tuesday, 8 February 2011

First Draft Blues

I'm deep in the middle of scripting just now.

2010 was spent chasing opportunities, doing a lot of pitches / treatments and performing rewrites on pre-existing scripts but, apart from a few shorts, I haven't written a first draft of anything since late 2009 so it feels good (and a little scary) to be here again. After writing a good treatment through January I am now 2/3 of the way through a 30 minute drama script for my MA that I am hoping will be a good calling card to help me break into TV drama.

But first drafts are funny things; in order to get through them you have to accept that they will not match up to your expectations; that they'll be too 'on the nose', overly complicated, lacking in subtext or just plain dull. The refinement that makes a script good comes later - in honing your scrappy draft into something beautiful - but in order to do that you need to just bash out, an often very ugly, first go at things which you can rework and rework and rework until it sings (at least, that's how I do things - maybe you have a different way of working? If so would love to hear about it.)

Problem is that when I come to do a first draft I've usually just come off the back of a seventeenth draft of something else and my brain rebels at having to write bald functional dialogue and clunky scenes that move people about like chess pieces yet this stuff is essential in working out what the story is about and the best way to tell it. Treatments are great for sorting out the plot but, for me, the flow of the story only comes when these elements are tested out in an actual script. Once I get that stuff down I can see what to cut and then begin the fun of emphasising subtext and subtlety. As well as wanting to help other writers, I'm writing this blog as much to remind myself that after the tough slog of the first draft will come the creativity and fun of the second and third - where the script begins to fulfill the potential that made me want to write it in the first place.

I'm hoping to finish the first draft this week - it'll be about 10 pages too long and have too many characters and scenes but that's not the point - a version will exist from which I can make something good. After that I will have to park it for a few weeks to focus on the more academic aspects of my MA, after which I should be able to return to it with fresh eyes to discover that all this 'first draft angst' will have been worth it!